By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It’s the second year of Nick Edwards’ regime as the head football coach at Kearny High School and already there’s something new and improved about Edwards’ Kardinals.
They won their season opener.
That’s right, Kearny defeated Newark East Side and won handily, 34-6. The Kardinals own a 1-0 record for the first time since 2011 and only the second time since reinstituting the program in 2004.
The news gets better.
“For the first time in a long time, the freshmen, JV (junior varsity) and varsity all won,” said Edwards, who took over the program in June of 2013. “That’s definitely different from recent years.”
Edwards proudly professes that there are 30 sophomores involved with his program.
Needless to say, things are definitely moving up for the Kearny football program.
Edwards was asked about how things have changed in his second year at the helm.
“It’s definitely easier having a full offseason to work with the players,” Edwards said. “The offseason went well with our speed training and weight lifting. I definitely think having that year is paying off. I think the kids understand me more and understand what we’re trying to do here and what we preach.”
Edwards also believes that the kids know that he truly loves them.
“My door is always open for them and they have that understanding,” Edwards said. “We have a good relationship.” Winning helps, as with the season opening win, the Kards have already matched their win total of last year and the previous year. So things have definitely changed during football season in Kearny.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Edwards, whose team faces Livingston Friday night, then plays four straight home games. “It gives us a boost of confidence going forward.”
Edwards likes the makeup of his team.
“We have a good mix,” Edwards said. “The majority of the team is made up of juniors and sophomores who played a lot last year.”
The Kardinals are using the spread-pistol offense, meaning that the Kards like to throw the ball all over the field.
Leading the way is junior quarterback David Nash (6-1, 160), who enjoyed a solid opening game, throwing for a touchdown and running for another.
“He’s doing pretty well,” Edwards said. “He’s very smart and understands defenses. He knows the game of football.”
Junior Hector Paredes (5-8, 170) is the Kardinals’ main running back.
“He’s definitely one of those guys who just wants to win,” Edwards said. “He’s a hardnosed runner who goes all out in practices and games. Nothing ever changes with him.”
The Kardinals have a host of players to fill the four receiver and slot positions. Junior Sammy Sanchez (5-8, 165) had a great season opener, scoring three touchdowns, including an 84-yard interception return for a score.
Seniors Michael and Chris Benevides are a pair of twin brothers who each stand 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds and provide Nash with solid targets to throw to. Junior Tiago Teixiera (5-7, 160) and sophomore Allen Tejada (5-10, 170) are also excellent speedy route runners.
It certainly makes for exciting times for the Kearny offensive attack.
Senior guard Nick Springer (6-1, 230) and senior tackle Owen Martinez (5-10, 220) are returning starters, as is junior Damien Torres (5-6, 180) at center. That experience has to help Nash run the intricate passing offense.
Junior Michael Amaro (6-0, 190) is the other tackle and sophomore Gabriel Dos Santos (5-10, 220) is the other guard.
Defensively, the Kards utilize a 4-4 front, with senior J.C. Yamba (5-9, 175) and junior Christian Rodriguez (5-9, 185) at defensive end and sophomore Hebber Reyes (5-10, 260) joining Springer at defensive tackle.
The outside linebackers are junior Richard Diaz (5-8, 165) and sophomore Ozzie Cabides (5-9, 165), with a pair of sophomores, Brian Santos (5-8, 180) and Niko Yamba (5-8, 160), at inside linebacker.
The cornerbacks are Teixiera, Chris Benevides and Paredes, with Sanchez and Michael Benevides at safety.
Edwards is fortunate to be able to use as many players as possible, giving a host of youngsters a chance to play. The more kids play, the bigger the interest for others, knowing that they can get a chance to get on the field as well.
“We had a lot of kids who came back,” Edwards said. “So the kids know what to expect. We also have kids who understand the importance of schoolwork. We had 54 varsity kids and only one had to go to summer school. That’s a major accomplishment.”
Edwards likes the way the program is moving.
“The numbers are up,” Edwards said. “I never thought we would have 80 kids in the program, but we do. Coming from 30, which is what we had when I took over, I think it’s all good for the program. We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and teaching them the right things.”
So far, so good.